The first weekend of the EPL season didn’t disappoint and as ever there were a few surprises in store. Our gameweek 1 review will break down the DraftKings main slate to see if we can gain any interesting insights from Saturday’s action. It’s important not to read into the early results too much, with players still working up to full fitness and trying to gel at new clubs or in different roles. With that said, hopefully we can still learn a few things here!
$50k Season Kickoff
The $50k season kickoff was won by ‘zergut’, who took down the $10k prize with a huge 18.5 point margin between him and 2nd placed ‘irwin030’. 27 points from 0.6% owned Sam Vokes proved to be the difference, with Burnley’s good fortune continuing in a shock 3-2 victory over Chelsea. A red card for new club captain Gary Cahill proved decisive in that match, with Burnley taking advantage on their next three shooting opportunities to end the half with a three goal lead. However, the 10 men of Chelsea outshot Burnley 19-10, created 5 more chances and even scored with 9 men to finish the game with around 1.3 xG to Burnley’s 0.7, according to @Caley_graphics. Chelsea only conceded three or more goals once last season and we shouldn’t expect it to happen on a regular basis, although their lack of squad depth was apparent here and they could struggle again in the next game without Cahill and Fabregas. Burnley are still a strong bet to go down and Vokes was very lucky to end the day as the top scorer on DraftKings, but zergut will certainly be glad to have used him in this lineup!
At the back zergut went with two centre-backs, both of whom had excellent games. If you have read my article ‘Understanding How to Pick DraftKings Players’ you will know that I typically recommend avoiding centre-backs, especially when Simon Francis was available at RB for just $2,900. That said, zergut did pick two reasonable options; West Brom rely heavily on set pieces to generate goals and Yoshida ended up taking direct free kicks for Southampton. Ederson was a safe choice at GK, but if desperate to save money it might have been better to pair Hegazi or Yoshida with a GK to take advantage of the clean sheet bonus.
The rest of zergut’s lineup looks solid; it was a welcome return to Everton for Wayne Rooney, who took set pieces and also scored to finish the day with 21 DraftKings points. Dusan Tadic went close for Southampton, but like last season the Saints struggled in front of goal against Swansea. 15 points is a good return though without a goal or assist and Southampton seemed to be very unlucky again in this one, generating 29 Sh, 33 Crs, 22 CC and 2.2 xG vs Swansea’s pitiful 4 Sh, 8 Crs, 3 CC and 0.3 xG. Just two of Southampton’s shots were on target, however, and they will need to improve shot quality in the future if they want to find the back of the net. Zaha and Aguero left owners wanting more for their money, but both players did enough to avoid damaging this lineup.
Eight players stumped up the $1,060 entry fee into the Playmaker, with DFS regular ‘Saramek’ emerging victorious in this one. We typically see people enter their cash game lineup (or close to it) in this format, so it was very surprising that Sandro Ramirez ended up in 75% of the teams. I noted in the gameweek 1 preview article that we might see a dip in performance for Sandro this season and Rooney appeared to be a much better option as he was likely to get set piece duties for Everton. Sandro’s ownership was twice as high as Rooney’s in both cash games and GPPs, which looks like a significant mistake with no real difference in salary between the two players.
The other surprising name in this lineup is Chris Brunt. At $6,000 Brunt should have been quite far down the list of potential options even if he was starting in midfield, but he was certainly overpriced for a LB and effectively forced you to use three defenders if you wanted to play him. Brunt took most of the set pieces but without an assist he would have left owners disappointed and his ownership of 1-2% in larger field GPPs looks more sensible. Saramek probably got away with one here…
The rest of the lineup looks more like what we would expect to see from a regular player. Courtois, Francis, Fabregas, Willian and Tadic were all viable in cash games as well as GPPs given their matchups and salaries. Tadic is perhaps going to be a bit risky in cash games moving forward, with Ward-Prowse and Bertrand taking over set piece duty in the first match. Patrick van Aanholt surprisingly took most of the corners for Palace even with Puncheon (starting) and Townsend (sub) on the field, and the Dutch wingback is going to be an excellent option in future weeks if that trend continues.
It was risky to have no exposure to the Manchester City attack here, but the City players were underwhelming on DraftKings given their expensive salaries and a 2-0 victory wasn’t enough to make you regret staying away. 5/8 entrants used Michy Batshuayi in this contest and Saramek’s decision to avoid him was a major factor in his win here, with the Belgian being subbed off early having managed to earn just 2 DraftKings points. Batshuayi was a great play against Burnley but it’s always worth considering a fade if ownership is going to be that high, especially when Morata looked almost certain to get some game time off the bench.
In cash games, there were a few surprises in terms of ownership. KDB, Willian, Azpilicueta and Fabregas were the four highest owned players in this contest, which makes sense considering their matchups against Brighton and Burnley. However, Tom Carroll was somehow next in the ownership rankings (30.3%), which seems like a huge stretch despite his low $3,300 salary. Carroll only managed 5.4 FPPG last season and with Jeremie Boga and Simon Francis available as salary relief options it wasn’t really necessary to look for a midfielder in the low $3,000 range. If going that cheap, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Pascal Gross or even teammates Wayne Routledge and Leroy Fer would all have made more sense than Carroll on this slate. People must have been assuming that Carroll would take set pieces with Sigurdsson out of the team, but this was still a tough matchup for Swansea and they didn’t even manage to win any set pieces last weekend.
Ownership at GK was spread out, with almost as many people preferring the salary savings of Tom Heaton to the safety of Thibaut Courtois. This, of course, paid off given the shock result, but spending $2,200 more on Courtois would likely be the better choice if this slate was played 1,000 times. Ederson and Pickford were also fairly low owned here (11-12%) seeing as they weren’t far behind Courtois in terms of safety and upside.
The rest of the ownership was focused on other players from Chelsea and City, as well as Crystal Palace and Southampton, which makes sense as those teams all had great matchups on paper. Ryan Fraser’s salary placed him in no-mans land with not much extra required to get up to better options in the $7-8k range, but even still it was surprising to see him in only 1.3% of lineups. James McClean and Joel Ward were also fairly low owned here (4.6%); neither player was expected to start but both were viable ways to save money on this slate.
Aside from Burnley, the other upset of the day was Huddersfield’s 3-0 victory away at Crystal Palace. I mentioned in the preview article that Palace could struggle to adapt to their new defensive system straight away and record signing Steve Mounie was able to capitalise twice on his debut, ending the day as the 2nd highest scorer on DraftKings with 23 points and looking very impressive in the process. Aaron Mooy chipped in with an assist and 7 crosses to give him a very respectable 13.75 point haul on DraftKings and as the main set piece taker he will be a solid option in the future, matchup permitting. Huddersfield managed to keep a clean sheet to put the icing on the cake, but Palace had their chances and manager David Wagner admitted that the result flattered his team. Palace won the stats battle with 14-9 Sh, 7-5 CC, 27-14 Crs, 0.9-0.6 xG and 55.6% possession, although Huddersfield did manage to find the target with an impressive 7/9 shots. Palace travel to Liverpool in gameweek 2 and it seems unlikely that they will have resolved their defensive issues by then.
In the late game Brighton held their own for 70 minutes despite City’s dominance, but ultimately the visitors’ quality proved too much for the Premier League newcomers with Sergio Aguero opening his account for the season. Gabriel Jesus failed to get on the scoresheet but he wasn’t far away, with his closest effort hitting the woodwork. DraftKings owners will be feeling disappointed, but he was a bit unlucky in this one and will continue to be a great option at forward most weeks. David Silva and KDB shared set piece duty this time, with the latter still managing a solid 13 DraftKings points without a goal or assist. Brighton wouldn’t have expected to get a positive result against City and they will be hoping for better when they travel to Leicester on Saturday.
The other surprise on the day was Benik Afobe getting the nod over Defoe for Bournemouth. Maybe Eddie Howe has already realised that it was a mistake to sign Defoe after all? Bournemouth struggled against West Brom despite having over 65% possession, with West Brom able to create better opportunities in front of goal (16-9 Sh, 15-7 CC, 1.2-0.4 xG). Bournemouth are expected to be safe this season but they will certainly need to show some better signs next week at home to Watford if they are going to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully you found the article useful; please share it on social media if you did, and let me know if you would like to see anything else included in next week’s review article. The gameweek 2 preview will be up later in the week, so follow us on Twitter @FantasyFutopia to make sure you don’t miss it!.
Thanks to @Caley_graphics for the xG numbers. All data by Opta.